George Drake, Personal Narrative
Submitted via email, April 19, 2000
This is a response to your request re. memories of Kent State. At the time, I was the academic dean at Colorado College and a member of the Grinnell College Board of Trustees (I subsequently became president of Grinnell).
At Colorado College students frequently demonstrated at the gates of Fort Carson in reaction to Kent State and the Cambodia bombings. M.P.s would drive up to the gate (from the inside) and helicopters hovered overhead in an uneasy confrontation. On one occasion that May, students "sat in" across Interstate Highway 25 (the main connection along the front range), completely stopping traffic until they were removed by police. I remember accompanying several hundred students as they demonstrated at Ent Air Force base (North American Air Defense Command headquarters). M.P.'s with automatic weapons surveyed us from the top of buildings as we marched through the facility (which had no perimeter fence).
At Grinnell, where I was a trustee, demonstrations led to closing the college two weeks early. It was felt that tensions were too great to sustain a reasonable campus environment. The class of 1970 had no commencement ceremony as a result. It is interesting that Tom Cech, the only Grinnell graduate to win a Nobel Prize and the current director of the howard Hughes Institute, was a member of the class of 1970. Several students, the President, the Dean and some faculty went to Washington and met with several in the Nixon White House (a Grinnell graduate was on Nixon's staff). Many students fanned out in the state of Iowa to speak to citizens. They styled themselves as "truth squads".